Friday, January 30th, 2009...1:30 pm

Stop This Train That’s Going in the Wrong Direction

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By Dave Boliek
CEO, The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning

I’m starting to write before I finish reading and that’s liable to be dangerous, but I have just gotten through the introduction of a just released report and recommend it to you.  A bunch of school superintendents in Texas, sincerely PO’d at the current system of education, has come forward with a plan for Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas.  They have, indeed, outlined a new vision for public education in America.

These superintendents go for the jugular on page two.

“The core business of schools is to provide engaging, appropriate experiences for students so that they learn and are able to apply their knowledge in ways that will enrich their lives and ensure their well-being.  Unfortunately, the present bureaucratic structure has taken away that focus and replaced it with a system based on compliance, coercion and fear.  If proper focus is to be restored, the system must be transformed into one based on trust, shared values, creativity, innovation and respect.”

Wheedoggies, folks!  These Texans are just getting warmed up.

About Accountability:

“The present accountability system has created schools in which the curriculum is narrowed and only academic abilities are valued.  Students become expert test takers but cannot retain or apply what they “know” in a context other than the test environment; and creativity, problem solving and teamwork are stifled.  The punitive approach and “referee” model embraced by that system have hindered the success of students and schools.  A more appropriate coaching model is needed to transform the system into one that inspires and stimulates.”

On Transforming Schools from Bureaucracies to Learning Organizations:

“Schools must be transformed from their current bureaucratic form, characterized by rules and sanctions, punitive accountability systems, routines, and standardization of everything, to learning organizations where only the mundane is standardized and standards are used to nurture aspirations and accommodate human variables.  Learning organizations maintain a clear sense of doing the right thing and doing it well, shared commitments and beliefs, common purpose and vision, trust, accountability, and use of standards to inspire.  Bureaucracies discourage and are disruptive to innovation and cannot create the dynamic conditions that foster superior performance of teachers and students.  Learning organizations capture the learning of adults, share it, and support its application so that capacities to improve student learning are extraordinary.”

My friends, that’s just part of the introduction setting the scene for a school system that is safe; values student creativity; uses the tools of technology students already have access to; assesses the learning process and helps students succeed; establishes high learning standard; and creates a culture that inspires everybody to do their best.

These superintendents were inspired by the Declaration of Independence and refuse to shut up and let the present bureaucratic school system harm students and their future.  And so they have published their own Declaration of Commitment that states a “new direction for educating the young is fundamental for the survival of the nation of the free [the founding fathers] envisioned and created.”

The Six Articles:

Article I: The New Digital Learning Environment

Article II: The New Learning Standards

Article III: Assessments for Learning

Article IV:  Accountability for Learning

Article V:  Organizational Transformation

Article VI: A More Balanced and Reinvigorated State/Local Partnership

The remainder of the document is designed to form the basis for conversation around these articles and beliefs of this group of superintendents.

This is not new news.  It is a powerful document that all in one place lays out a coherent vision.  It deserves the discussion these superintendents are demanding for the future of America’s young people.


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